Tag Archives: Marvel Legends

Tales of a Thrifty Nerd: How to build a sweet collection without starving your family to death


By Nick Saunders

I had an interesting conversation with my wife yesterday evening after leaving the local comic book store. I was explaining why I liked the Monogram Direct superhero bust banks they were selling so much; they are well-sculpted and (usually) well-painted, and cost about $10-15 each. A similar-sized polystone bust from Diamond Select or Bowen Designs would cost at least $80. Considering I don’t foresee myself leaving the world of grossly underpaid middle management any time soon, I’m going to go with the one that doesn’t force my family to rely on ramen and styrofoam peanuts for sustenance. My wife replied, “that’s why I like you- you find ways to have cool looking stuff without spending tons of money on it.”


That inspired me to write this article about how to build an envy-inducing empire of swag without incurring your own personal microcosm of the U.S. national debt.

1. Avoid MISB/MIB Figures

When collecting vintage action figures, collecting MISB (Mint in Sealed Box) toys will break your pockets quickly. For a vintage Generation 1 Transformer, this is the difference between spending $50 for loose and $500 for MISB.


Even for contemporary figures, this will save you money in cases where you have to resort to eBay for an item you can’t find locally. For Marvel Legends or DC Universe Classics, many sellers exclusively sell loose figures. Typically you will pay half the price, and the shipping will be cheaper as the seller can ship in a much smaller box.

Also, check out your local comic shop for loose figures; people often trade their collections in to be re-sold. This is especially useful when collecting vintage. Some great places to look in Phoenix are GI Joe vs. Transformers and Pop Culture Paradise. If you are at a reputable store, you will typically avoid the exhorbitant prices of eBay vintage sellers, be able to examine the item in person, and possibly have room to negotiate the price.

2. Collect Incomplete Figures

Does it really matter if your G1 Optimus Prime comes with the hose and gas nozzle? Will people who view your collection (besides the uber-elitist collectors that this article is clearly not directed at) really think less of it? The answer is a resounding NO. You will save an immense amount of money if you are willing to settle for a figure that might be missing a thing or two. Sometimes one missing accessory can bring the price of an toy down immensely. You can get a c8-c9 condition G1 Targetmaster without the transformable gun for less than a third of what you will pay for it being complete, and you still have the gorgeous figure itself to display on your shelf.

Heck I just picked up a slightly-yellowed loose G1 Slugslinger this past weekend at GI Joe vs. Transformers for a cool $15. The one in the case with less wear and the Targetmaster gun was about $90 (still a good price but not in my budget anymore). If needed he can always borrow an extra gat from one of his homies if things get a little too real with the Autobots up on my toy shelf.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to do Some Reconditioning

Personally, I have never been into collecting as if it was an investment. I want a collection that looks impressive and gives me enjoyment, but resale value is the least of my concerns. One way I have saved a great deal of money is by buying vintage items that need a little bit of TLC to get them back to presentable condition. For Transformers, eBay is littered with auctions of dirt-cheap loose G1 figures that have moderate cosmetic wear that is easily remedied. While not always the case, usually a thorough cleaning, replacement of some rusty screws, and some freshly applied Reprolabels (amazing reproductions of original G1 Transformer sticker sheets) gives you a toy that looks almost new.


Of course, the older the Transformer is, the more loose accessories are missing, so don’t go buying that gnarly looking G1 Starscream fuselage with zero accessories and the nosecone chewed off and think you will make it look any more appealing than the polished turd that it is.


The above methods (sans the Reprolabels of course) also can be applied to loose moderately worn MOTU (He-Man) figures, Thundercats, etc. Especially if you are not afraid to break out some model paint and do some touch-ups, you can bring that beat up old Skeletor back to life to wreak havoc on the peace-loving citizens of Eternia.

4. Re-issue is NOT a Dirty Word

In the early 2000’s, toy companies began to re-release vintage figures from the 1980’s. Mattel re-released several MOTU figures during this time, and Hasbro and Takara began re-releasing the original Generation 1 Transformers as well. They had uncovered the original molds from the 1980’s and put them back into production. All but the most discriminating collectors jumped at the chance to buy their favorite Autobot or Decepticon for half of what the original 1980’s editions were going for online. Not only were they brand new and completely immaculate, they came with all of their accessories and a fresh label sheet to apply to the toy. Call me weird, but one of my favorite things to do as a kid was to apply the labels to a new Transformer. Even on the secondary market, you will be able to purchase a re-issue version of a vintage toy for less than the original run. However, coversely you must be wary of vendors and eBay sellers marketing re-issue items as originals, as the differences are often only noticable to an expert eye.

At the end of the day if you follow these tips, while you may not bankroll your future child’s college fund with the purchases you have made, what you will have is an awesome and unique collection to display proudly. And money for toilet paper.

Oh Captain, My Captain: Some of the best Captain America toys ever made


By Nick Saunders

I thought that a fitting way to celebrate our freedom from the crumpet-eating Brits would be to take a look back at some of my favorite Captain America toys that have been made in the last 30 years. He has always been one of my favorite superheroes, and I always love scoring a new Cap toy.


Secret Wars Captain America, Mattel (1984)

In 1984, Mattel released an entire Secret Wars line to cooncide with the Marvel crossover comic being published at the time. These were also meant to be placed in direct competition with the DC Super Powers figures being made by Kenner.

This Cap was particularly cool because the figure was durable unlike the Kenner line, and featured the line’s signature shield gimmick with a lenticular insert that would alternate images.

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Marvel Super Heroes Captain America, Toy Biz (1990)

It took a few years to get another decent Cap figure again, but Marvel subsidiary Toy Biz hit a home run with their Marvel Super Heroes line in 1990. This figure is unique because he had a shield that was mounted on a spring-loaded launcher.

Also, no doubt due to my highly persuasive (read: irritating) begging and campaigning, my folks were generous enough to get me the accompanying Captain America Turbo Coupe. This was basically a Corvette ZR-1 on steroids with a working shield battering ram and detachable hidden glider. One of the greatest action figure vehicles ever made, I really wish I knew what I did with mine.


Marvel Legends Series 1 Captain America, Toy Biz (2002)

The modern standard for action figure quality was established in 2002 when Toy Biz conceived and released the Marvel Legends toy line. These hyper detailed and articulated 6-inch figures redefined the superhero toy and further blurred the line between “toy” and “collectible.” This piece still remains one of the highlights of my action figure collection.


Marvel Legends Ultimate WWII Captain America, Hasbro (2008)

Considered the primary influence for the costume of Cap in Captain America: The First Avenger, this Ultimates modeled figure came in a 2-pack with the first Marvel Legends iteration of Ultimate Nick Fury. This depicts Cap while fighting in World War II, prior his deep-freeze in the Arctic.

It comes to the party strapped with a pistol, shield, and machine gun, with removable ammo belt, helmet, and an interchangeable head. Steve Rogers definitely was smoking Nazis in style.


Marvel Legends Heroic Age Captain America, Hasbro (2012)

This figure actually is a depiction of Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier), former sidekick of Captain America, who took up the shield while the original Cap was temporarily “dead.”

I really despised the design of this suit when it first debuted in the comics, but the first time I came across this figure my opinion of the revamped suit totally reversed. It has a tactical vibe to it with the black accents and gear, metallic paint, and the included pistol and Rambo shank give it beaucoup street cred. Yes, I just said an action figure has beaucoup street cred.

My brother gave this to me last year for my birthday, and it remains one of my favorites.


Transformers Crossovers Captain America, Hasbro (2009)

Last, but not least, I feel the need to include the Transformers Crossovers Captain America. While some TF and Marvel fans alike very much disliked this toy line, this particular figure stands out as one of the better molds they made. I personally dig the rugged Humvee alternate mode and the robot is solid with a well-translated likeness of Cap. It comes with a detachable spare tire that expands into his signature shield.

Ironically, as often as I have heard people dog on this toy line, I frequently see in online forums examples of this particular toy being used as the base for custom Transformer kitbashes (custom figures made out of the parts of other toys).

So that’s what I’ve got for today. My thanks go out to the men and women who continue to protect our freedom so that men like me can blog about toys.

Thumbs up soldier!